My Thoughts

Adventures in Faith


Thursday, December 20, 2018

Did you know your name is not found in the New Testament?  Has the thought ever crossed your mind that the writers were addressing people in their day and time rather than in yours and mine?  Were real first century people being written to, or does the New Testament contain twenty-first century names?  Are people in the cities of Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta, or New York City being addressed?  When a New Testament writer spoke of Jesus returning, did he think Jesus would return in his lifetime, ours, or some future generation a few thousand years from now?

When some twenty-first century students read their Bible, they believe the author of that specific book is personally addressing them.  They read their culture, traditions, habits, understandings, comfort zone, and practices into his first century penmanship.  Perhaps they assume they have the authority to ignore what is said then change it to what they believe?  If Paul tells women to “adorn” or “dress modestly,” the twenty-first century reader overlooks Paul’s specific words describing immodesty (“not with braided hair or gold or pearl or expensive clothes”), and substitutes what his present cultural view is.  He universalizes his concept of immodesty and teaches it as though his definition is more inspired than Paul’s.  Then he charges another with falsehood whose definition is different from his!

If a first century practice is contrary to one’s cultural and belief system, the reader believes he is given a God authorized liberty to upgrade and make any substitutes necessary to bring the writer’s culture in line with his culture and comfort zone.  He experiences no guilt in this exercise of substitution, subtraction and addition to the original biblical text.  His manipulation miraculously exonerates the Biblical writer for not having the foresight to write it as the modern believer understands and practices.  In the first century, slavery was regulated but not condemned.  To soften this first century “mistake,” the reader visualizes the word “servant” or “slave” as an “employee” and “employer.”

If the reader is a pacifist, he assumes the Roman officer Cornelius resigned his commission and sold his sword.  If an individual believes the communion must be marked with solemnity and silent respect, he disregards the discussions, disagreements, and arguments engaged in by the apostles.  He also overlooks Jesus girding himself with a towel and basin of water to wash feet.  Such actions are not new.  Jesus’ revelation of his coming death was met with denials and disbelief from his closest associates.  His revelation and illustration of who among them would betray him is ignored and separated from the eating and drinking performed during that occasion.

There is a tendency to glorify and elevate God’s approved individuals to a higher possession of respect and accomplishment than any mortal was capable of attaining.   For example, David is remembered as the boy who killed the irreverent giant, who soothed the king’s schizophrenia with his magical harp, who was a man after God’s own heart, and made only one outstanding mistake in his entire life.  Yet, Uriah is not the only person that lost his life due to David’s command.  David not only had wives, but extra women called concubines.  His coverups were better than President Nixon’s, and his hands so bloody that he was not allowed to build God’s holy temple.  He numbered Israel and Israel paid the ultimate price.

Some read their Bible with twenty-first century reading glasses.  John records Jesus telling the church in Philadelphia, “Behold, I come quickly” (Revelation 3:11).   That city no longer exists in western Turkey.  Did Jesus come as he promised the Philadelphians or was he guilty of making a promise which he could not keep?  Three other times Jesus made that same statement (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20).  It is related to the expression “at hand” concerning Jesus coming and setting up his kingdom (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 10:7; Luke 21:30-31; Romans 13:12; Philippians 4:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 Peter 4:7; Revelation 1:3; 22:10).  If the reader looks up the words “at hand” he will see how inspiration used them in other events.  Man has read those passages since the circulation of the New Testament manuscripts and applied them to his specific generation.   In doing so, he negates the actual audience John and others were writing to.  Did Jesus fulfill that statement to those they were written to, or did he, Paul, and others look over the heads of their present audience, and focus on a time in our day, or in tomorrow land?  If those words apply to some future generation, then we and past generations have been guilty of participating in doctrinal error by thinking we were inspiration’s audience!

 “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom(Matthew 16:28).

And he said to them, “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power(Mark 9:1).

I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God(Luke 9:27).

  1. Who was Jesus’ audience when he spoke those words?
  2. Were the apostles the audience Jesus was speaking to, or an unknown and unnamed future generation some 2,200+ years later?
  3. Did Jesus make this statement, whose fulfillment was based upon the whims of Jesus audience during his ministry, and those whims would postpone that promise for 2,000+ years?
  4. Where in this statement did Jesus or the Holy Spirit express an idea of a 2,000+ year postponement?
  5. Were those mentioned as “standing here” not actually in Jesus’ audience when he spoke those words, but reserved for that future audience what would not die but see the actual kingdom come?
  6. Was the coming of the Holy Spirit in power on Pentecost in Acts 2 not the power Jesus was referring to on this occasion?
  7. How should the Holy Spirit have worded Matthew 16:28, Mark 9:1, and Luke 9:27 for all future generations to understand that Jesus’ audience was the apostles and they were the ones who would see that fulfillment before dying?


Monday, December 17, 2018

Jesus was born into a carpenter family.  Like most boys in his day, he began early to learn his father’s trade.  Can you imagine Jesus making anything that wasn’t exceptional?  He would have been the perfect craftsman and employee.  Each item he built, finished, and sold would produce a happy owner.  He would be the first to go to work and the last to leave.  Imagine the millions of dollars a chair or table would sell for today if its maker was Jesus?  “Joseph and Sons Carpenter Shop” would have been world renown due to his craftsmanship.  But he left and took up work that was much more important.  Family doesn’t always see things alike and this distraction caused bad family feelings.

Do you think Joseph, James, Joseph, Jr., Simon, and Judas were overjoyed when Jesus changed his profession (Matthew 13:55)?  Rather than praises, there would have been complaints due to his absence.  His family was not his biggest supporters in his new profession.  On one occasion when Jesus returned to the area, Mary and the brothers came to where Jesus was teaching, wanting to take him home!  Weren’t they impressed by his healing of folks who were giving their testimony?  Apparently not.  They thought he was “beside himself” (Mark 3:21 KJV.  “Out of his head” NKJV.  “Lost his senses” NASB.  “Out of his mind” NIV, ESV.  “He’s crazy” IEB).   Jesus was an embarrassment to the family.  They wanted to “seize,” “take custody,” “take charge of him,” “lay hold on him,” or “take him home.”  One doesn’t allow a crazy person to exhibit his lunacy before the public.  A loving family takes him home by force and hides him from public view.

Perhaps the family had been influenced by the teachers of the law who had traveled from distant Jerusalem to charge Jesus.  They didn’t deny Jesus’ miracles, they attributed them to the power of Satan.  If you can’t answer the truth, you make a demon out of your foe.  Jesus was charged with having “an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:30).  What sane person would want to listen to or allow that “spirit” to rub off on him?  It was the old ruse of “Guilt by Association.”  He was a renown carpenter who had sunk into Satan’s abyss and brought embarrassment to his family and their livelihood!  They were there, for his benefit, to get him off the street and save him from public ridicule.

Seminary professors, lawyers, priests, synagogue leaders, the high priests, the politically correct, and those more worldly than wise were fed and repeated lies that made Jesus look worse than Barabbas (Matthew 27:16).  Jesus’ brothers, sisters, and mother must have thought, “If he had only stayed home, none of this would have happened.”  The brothers were not big fans of Jesus ministry.  They probably thought Jesus had kept their mother confused ever since he was born (Luke 2:19, 51).

When Jesus was a young boy, he must have been priceless in many ways.  Luke tells us,

And so, the little boy was growing up and becoming stronger and smarter.  God’s gracious love was upon him . . . Jesus grew taller and continued to learn more and more.  People liked him, and he pleased God” (Luke 2: 40, 52, Emphasis mine, RH).

When he was twelve, while in Jerusalem, he went to the Temple courtyard and visited the teachers, “listening to them and asking them questions.  Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and wise answers” (Luke 2:47).

It is amazing how Jesus neighbors liked him when he was growing up but wanted to throw him off a cliff when he was an adult (Luke 4:28-29).  Tell people what they want to hear and you’re a hero.  Tell them what they don’t want to hear and you’re a heretic!   Feed people until they cannot hold another bite and you are appreciated.  Feed them truth and you’re an apostate.

Apparently, it took Jesus’ resurrection to change his brothers into believers.  Once he began his earthly ministry, he no longer picked up a saw, chisel, plumb line, or other tools.  The carpenter business was a family obligation but his mission in life wasn’t making and selling furniture.  Even if family considered him crazy and he needed to be kept off the streets, Jesus did not allow the negative to defeat his purpose.  His calling was higher.  His mission was to make the world great again.  He was rewarded with horrible beatings to head and body.  His hands and feet felt large nails tearing holes in them, securing him to a Roman punishment.  He wore the shame, pain, rejection, hate, spit, ignorance, lies, desertion, loneliness, and death so WE could spend eternity with God!  He died, shouldering the burden of our sins and in exchange bestowed upon us his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  He gave us what we could not earn.  He succeeded where we failed.  He was victorious where our weaknesses surrendered.  He turned our worthlessness into a heavenly blessing by paying it all!

He calls us to follow him (Matthew 11:28-30).  God adds those believers to the sinless body of Jesus.  God loves you (John 3:16).  He wants to bestow His grace upon you.  The command is “come.”  About three thousand responded on Pentecost (Acts 2:41, 47).  You too can be part of that growing number!


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Jews are not usually on everyone’s popularity list, especially in the twenty-first century.   Hitler attempted to rid his world of them in the twentieth century and succeeded in annihilating six million.  He wasn’t the first to hate them.  Being stationed in Palestine in the first century merited a sympathy card rather than a “congratulations.”  Jews were narrowminded, believing only in one God.  Forcing Rome’s beliefs on them met with resistance and revolt.  Roman occupation would have collapse without the presence of their legions.  Even then, one did not turn his back on a Jewish zealot.   Romans were barbarians and uncircumcised and a good Jew would not get too friendly with one.  Roman and Jewish life were incompatible.  Jewish life was tied up with their scriptures, their God, their Temple, priesthood, sacrifices, and culture.  If you weren’t a Jew, you were lower than a dog.  The feeling was also mutual from the Gentile side.

Sometimes Christians mistakenly believe Jesus was a Christian.  But that was not one of his titles.  Jesus was a Jew.  He believed in and followed the Law of Moses.  He did Jewish things in Jewish ways and called Jewish things by Jewish names.  Growing up he went with his parents every year to Jerusalem for the Passover (Luke 2:41-42).  When Jesus began his ministry, he went to Jerusalem for those same religious festivals (John 5:1; 7:2, 10, 14; 8:1-2; 10:22).  Jesus in celebration and worship would rejoice in the way that Israel worshiped (Deuteronomy 16:11-17). There would be rejoicing, feasting, and giving.  The Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah would follow the prophet Ezra’s admonition to “go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks . . . do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).   Jesus would follow the prophet’s admonition to “make much joy” rather than be sad or weep.  When scripture was read, he would have joined in with shouting “Amen” and bowing with others in worship before the Lord (Nehemiah 8:6).  Gloom, frowning, and such would not have been part of his worship habit.

During Jesus’ ministry, Psalm 47 would be read seven times at the Temple during Rosh Hashanah.  There would be loud songs of praise and the blowing of the shofar.  Jesus would hear the following as they worshiped on that day, “Clap your hands, all you peoples, Shout to God with loud songs of joy . . . God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of the Trumpet.  Sing praises to God, sing praises . . . sing praises with a psalm.”  Jesus would not only be familiar with this worship, but as an obedient follower of the Law, take part in the activities.

Jesus’ problem was not that he refused to follow the Law and its practices, but he questioned the traditions of the Jewish leadership (Matthew 23).  When the priests and teachers of the Law came to Jesus, they didn’t come to be taught, but to find something they could criticize.  Mark tells us,

Again, Jesus went into a synagogue.  A man with a crippled hand was there.  Some Jewish leaders were waiting to see if Jesus would heal the man on the Sabbath day.  They wanted to see Jesus do something wrong, so that they could accuse him” (Mark 3:1-2).

Those religious leaders were not interested in people being healed.  They wanted to stop Jesus, but to do so they had to find something wrong with him.  They did not criticize him for his religious practices because all that he did was in harmony with the Law of Moses.  Their hate drove them blindly to disregard his teaching in their effort to protect their traditions.  That kind of protection did not cease in the first century.

People haven’t changed.  Hate continues to blind individuals so that good looks evil and evil looks good.  Lies prevail.  Misrepresentation continues.  False accusation did not die in Jesus’ day.  They continue to be used by those who feast upon such.

Jesus was a Jew.  He made it possible for Jew and Gentile to be one (Ephesians 2:1-22).  That oneness is based upon love (1 Corinthians 13).  That place is referred to as “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27).  Jesus is its head (Ephesians 1:22-23).   God adds the saved to that body of believers (Acts 2:41, 47).  It was a movement which began in the first century on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37-47).  It is where one is forgiven and continually cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  That fellowship continues today (Matthew 16:18)!


Monday, December 10, 2018

Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19).

A memory was created during a memorial celebration called Passover.  While feasting upon that meal Jesus took the third cup of wine and made a few remarks (Luke 22:17-18).  Then he took up the loaf of unleavened bread and spoke of it as his body.  He broke off a piece and handed the loaf to the apostle next to him who mimicked his actions and passed it on.  At his command, each ate the piece he had torn from the main loaf (Luke 22:19; Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22).  After pouring the fourth cup of Passover wine, Jesus informed them of his body and passed the container of wine, so each could refill his cup.  He then commanded them to drink that cup of wine (Luke 22:20; Matthew 26:27-28; Mark 14:23-25).  During that same event, he also washed their feet (John 13:4-17).

After he had finished, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?” (V.12).  If they knew, it isn’t mentioned.  Jesus continued revealing that there was a betrayer in their midst.  They were clueless.  He gave them a hint, but it was not grasped even though performed in front of them (v.26).  He told them that he must die but would rise the third day.  It went completely over their heads.  Due to their misunderstanding, when Jesus was put to death, their hope evaporated leaving them void of all assurance.  Fear locked their doors.  They were drowning in their own confusion, anxiety, and doubts. This fear which produced “little faith” on the Sea of Galilee, continued to mature in each of them (Matthew 8:26).  In the absence of understanding, it is impossible to build a solid foundation of remembering.

We are all born with the ability to forget.  The apostles had increased the strength of that ability.  Jesus and the angels announced, “Fear not.”  Like the apostles, we too are engaged in forgetting, which allows fear to replace trust.  God looks for that trust.  We should too and claim its ownership.

Jesus tells us to come to him (Matthew 11:28-30).  Are we too busy grasping for the impossibility of perfection to notice and understand who has it?  Jesus rebuked the apostles for their “little faith.”  “Little faith” refuses to put one’s trust in what Jesus has, because what they lacked convinced them that they would fail!  (Matthew 16:8-11).  We have restored their habit of majoring in minors and minoring in majors.  We forget who paid it all in our effort to pay it ourselves.  We do not remember who the Lord and Savior is, attempting to fill that majestic role ourselves.

We forget that we are not God’s standard of excellence.  Jesus is!  Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  Do we major in forgetfulness?   Do we have a PhD in “little faith” (Matthew 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8)?


Thursday, December 6, 2018

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14 NKJV

For he has rescued us out of the darkness and gloom of Satan’s kingdom and brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who bought our freedom with his blood and forgave us all our sins.” (TLB).

Those two translations point out that Jesus takes those who are in the “power of darkness” or “Satan’s kingdom” and “conveyed,” “brought,” or “translated” (KJV) them into his “kingdom.”  He did this by redeeming us (buying our freedom) with his cleansing blood.  WE ARE FORGIVEN!   That means we are SAVED!

Paul told the Romans that in baptism they were buried with Jesus (Romans 6:3-4).  He informed the Galatians that they were immersed to “put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).  Luke speaks of it as God adding the believer to the saved (Acts 2:41, 47 ASV).  Later, Paul tells the Corinthians, “Now you are in Christ’s body” (NASV).  Writing to the Ephesians Paul said that Jesus is the head of the body “which is the church” (Ephesians 1:22-23).  The Ephesians, the Corinthians, The Romans, the Galatians, and other members were the body of Christ and saved in his church or assembly.

When these statements are connected, the one who receives the word with gladness and is baptized is taken out of one kingdom and installed in the other:

  1. He is delivered out of Satan’s darkness and moved into Jesus’ light (Colossians 1:13-14).
  2. He is added to the saved (Acts 2:41, 47).
  3. He is immersed into Jesus (Galatians 3:26-29).
  4. He is clothed with Christ (Romans 13:14).
  5. He is in the body of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:27).
  6. And, he is in the church which is the body of Jesus (Ephesians 1:22-23)!
  7. He is blessed by being clothed with God’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  8. His sin nature dies and he becomes a new creation of God (2 Corinthians 5:17).

When one was added to the church, it wasn’t a non-essential man made organization.  Each one became a body member of Jesus!  In Jesus there is no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).  In Jesus there is “no condemnation” (Romans 8:1-9).  Yet, we know that sin remains a problem for us, but not God (1 John 1:8, 10)!  How can we commit sin without that sin compromising the sinless body of Jesus that we are added to?  The Corinthians were in his body and look at their sin problems!

In the kingdom of darkness

  1. One is lost.
  2. He belongs to Satan.
  3. He is a citizen of darkness.
  4. He is dead in trespasses and sins.
  5. He is a child of disobedience.
  6. He is the old man of sin.
  7. The wages of his sin is death.
  8. He is without God or hope.
  9. He is a child of the Devil.
  10. How can he be there and be a Christian?

In the body, kingdom, or assembly of Jesus

  1. One is saved. Some believe they aren’t but must wait until judgment to find out!
  2. He belongs to God.
  3. He is a citizen of heaven.
  4. He has been made alive.
  5. He has newness of life.
  6. He is an obedient child of God.
  7. He is the new man.
  8. His sins are not counted, and he is forgiven, and sins forgotten.
  9. There is no condemnation.
  10. He is a child of God, a Christian, saint, or disciple of Jesus.

Christians are not sinless.  In fact, we are informed that if we deny that we sin, the truth is not in us and we are liars (1 John 1:8, 10).  If one walks “in darkness” it is because he is in the kingdom of darkness.  If one is in the kingdom of light he cannot be in the dark (1 John 1:6).  Sinners in the kingdom of darkness are not saved.  Sinners in the kingdom of light are.  How can a Christian sin and be in the kingdom of light?  One who is in the light recognizes his shortcomings and confesses or acknowledges that fact.  The difference between the two kingdoms is that in Jesus we are covered by God’s grace and cleansed by Jesus’ blood (v.7).  That grace and cleansing power is absent in the kingdom of darkness.

Some believers are concerned about their salvation.  If so, why not exchange that festering doubt of anxiety for God’s satisfying gift of assurance?  God sent Jesus to pay for our sins.  God isn’t a deadbeat refusing to keep his promises.  The book of Hebrews addresses sinners like us and states, “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul”. (Hebrews 10:39). If you are not “in Christ,” you are still in Satan’s kingdom.  Jesus wants you to put him on (Galatians 3:26-29).  You must come to him in faith.  That faith will lead you to die to sin, bury the old man and put on the new one.  Paul says we are buried and raised with Jesus (Romans 6:3-11).  When God adds you to his saved body of believers, you receive His grace and Jesus’ cleansing blood.  Neither God’s grace nor Jesus’ blood is insufficient in keeping you in excellent standing with the Father.  Jesus erases all our sins and in exchange we are beneficiaries of His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Enjoy your clothing.  It is heaven sent.



Monday, December 3, 2018

I have just finished listening to a bishop from the Episcopal Church, being interviewed by one of the networks, claim that hell was invented by the church to control its membership.  He went on to explain that all religions are just fallible human systems seeking to control others with a reward and punishment teaching.

His logic is lacking.  He claims the Bible isn’t true because it was written by men, making it a human effort to control others.  He can’t see that his argumentation negates his own thesis because his efforts are based upon the same thing that he ridicules.  He wants others to accept his views at truth!

He stated that every church claims it is the true church because each seeks to control its membership.  He is seeking to control others by getting us to swallow his claim that his truth is the only one that is correct.  Apparently, he believes he has discovered what all others have failed to understand.  He wants us to believe he, not Jesus, is our rightful savior!

There is a small kernel of truth hidden among his remarks.  Perhaps that “kernel” isn’t the “truth” he wanted his listeners to understand.  It is true that we all think we have some “truth” that others need but have failed to discover.  Isn’t it true that we want others to believe what we know so they will discover what we have and be just as free as we are?  Would the world be better off if Jesus had stayed home to work with wood?  Even the Episcopal bishop thought his “truth” was far better than the truth taught by Jesus.

People can find agreement over some subject, but where the majority agrees is not our standard.  People have been wrong.  Our problem begins when two people disagree, but each believes his position is eternal truth.  Disagreement has produced division and wars.  A nation may pass a law that seems right to them, but it clashes with a higher truth that is not human.  It was lawful for German Nazi officials to imprison and murder six million Jesus between 1939 to 1945.  In the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, judges argued that there was a higher law of truth that negated Nazi Germany law.  Was that court mistaken about the existence of universal law and truth?

If we follow the logic of that clergyman there is no absolute truth in our world.  The logical conclusion of his view is found in scripture where everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25).  How do we know the clergyman’s assumptions are truth since they are generated to gain control over others?  He was claiming that his system of thought was the true one while all others were false!  Why should we believe his say so?  What elevates his belief above the “truths” held dear by the rest of mankind?  Doesn’t his belief also indict him?  Isn’t he just as fallible as he thinks everyone else is?

His reasoning makes a circular journey and ends up with the same question asked by a Roman governor long ago, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).  Pilate’s truth was to wash his hands and let someone else take the fall.  Jesus took the past, present, and future sins of mankind upon himself, by enduring man’s violence.  Jesus stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  He was God in the flesh telling mankind “I love you.  I want you to have fellowship with me, forever.”  Apparently, that bishop believes Jesus was the most misguided individual that ever walked on the earth.  There are a lot of people that would rather stand with the bishop.  Whose truth do you accept as your teacher?  Your choice.

Grace is Free, But Not Cheap!

Thursday, November 29, 2018


For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”  (Hebrews 2:9).

 Grace was expensive for Jesus.  It cost him his life, so he could be the sacrifice for our sins. Paul tells us that grace is a gift from God (Romans 3:24-26).  Some believe grace needs a hand, our hand in supplementing partial payment for our wrong doings.  Some believe that our obedience is our payment as we work toward perfection. Most recognize they will not reach that noble goal, but their works will hopefully bring them close.  Whatever gap is left is where and when they look for God’s grace to step in and make up the difference.

 If that is a true teaching, how many points does heaven require to enter its gates?  Let’s say an individual is very zealous and wants to get as close as possible so his assurance of salvation will be high, his obedience will be noteworthy, and God will not be burdened with a large amount of grace bestowed!

He prays at each meal vocally.  He prays before going to bed: 300 points each time.

He attends class, Sunday’s two worships, and Wednesday night: 400 points each time.

He teaches a Sunday morning class: 500 points each class.

He does not curse nor use profanity: 1,000 points each day he succeeds.

He treats his parents and siblings with respect: 800 points each day.

He studies his Bible every day: 2,000 points each day.

He memorizes large portions of scripture: 5,000 points with each new passage.

He keeps himself pure: 10,000 points each day.

He marries a faithful Christian woman: 5,000 points.

He has private Bible studies with folks that are not believers: 1,000 points each.

He baptizes some that he teaches: 25,000 points for each new convert.

He is a good Christian father: 25,000 points each day.

He is a very faithful husband: 25,000 points each day.

He served as a deacon for 15 years: 30,000 points for each year served.

He is serving as an elder: 100,000 points each year with an extra 25,000 for each meeting attended.

He is honest in his business affairs: 35,000 points each day.

He attends every evening during a gospel meeting: 75,000 points for each one attended.

He goes on mission trip overseas: 100,000 for each trip.

He works with the local soup kitchen: 5,000 points each time he serves.

He drives the church bus to pick up members: 500 points for each time.

He serves on several church committees: 100 points for each, and 100 each meeting.

Does fill in preaching: 75,000 points each time.

Leads singing when needed: 1,000 points each time.

Presides at Lord’s table from time to time: 1,000 points each time.

Good example for his children who are faithful: 25,000 points for each child.

Saved several marriages through counseling: 150,000 points for each.

For all other acts of faithfulness: 100,000 points for each day.

Judgment day!  He comes with a tremendous number of points.  Yet he knows that in spite of all his accomplishment, he has not been perfect.  However, he is certain that he is close and that he will not need much grace to fill his gap.  The Lord announces that the amount he needed was (10^)^(10^100)!  What he has amassed is like one drop of water compared with all the water in the rest of the world! 

What is he to do?  There is no way he can imagine what is expected much less attempt to reach it in one lifetime.  If he lived longer than Methuselah, his success would still be laughable and so incomplete.

Not one sin has been paid off by all his good works! Although his good works are appreciated, they are worthless as a payment.  Why?  Because Jesus has already paid his debt.  Grace has already covered his imperfections.  Grace is God’s gift to those who will come in faith to follow Jesus!


Monday, November 26, 2018

Jesus asked what others were saying about him. Different replies were offered. Peter answer was, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16).

Jesus response was, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18). Have you ever noticed that the church has never worn the name of the one who said, “my church”? Paul told the Ephesians elders, “the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28). True, Jesus is God or Deity, but that is not his name.

The closest inspiration comes to showing it was Jesus’ church are two statements. In the first one the Corinthians were told, “Now you are the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27). The Hebrew writer announced, “the church of the firstborn.” (Hebrews 12:23). “Christ” and “firstborn” describe Jesus title and relationship but neither are his name.

If I built a house wouldn’t people say, “That’s Ray Hawk’s house?” Some might say, “That’s the preacher’s house” or “That’s Mary Nell and her husband’s house”? I am a husband. I am a preacher. But, do those titles properly identify the house as “my house”? Even the Bible identifies a house by the owner’s name in Acts 12:12.

The Hebrew writer states, “His own house, whose house are we” (Hebrews 3:6). Jesus’ title was “Messiah” or “Christ.” Both terms mean “Anointed one.” Most English versions do not translate the Greek word “Christos.” They simply spelled out the first six letters and dropped the Greek “os.” This has caused some to believe Jesus’ personal name is “Jesus Christ.” If translations had been consistent, each would display the phrase as “Jesus the Anointed One.” Matthew informs us that his name is “Jesus” (Matthew 1:25).

Whose name do we confess? We sing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know,” but most never display a street sign with “Church of Jesus” lettered on it! Scripture does not give us a singular or plural name that must be displayed to properly identify the church. Scripture uses multiple expressions to refer to it.

One Time
Church of the living God
Church of the Firstborn
Church of Ephesus
Churches of the Gentiles
Churches of Christ
Churches of the saints
Churches of Asia
Churches of Macedonia
Churches of Judaea

Two Times
Church of the Laodiceans (Col.4:16)
Church of the Thessalonians
Church of Galatia

Three Times
Churches of God

Eight Times
Church of God

Twenty-Two Times

Sixty-Six Times

You may have noticed that “Church of Jesus” and a lot of other descriptive names used by different groups are missing. Some insist that the expression “Church of God” and “Churches of God” are used more than any other as identifying names. The terms used most are “church” and “churches.” None were referred to as THE proper name.  In the first century, the assembly of Jesus did not buy “church” property, build cathedrals, pave parking lots, erect street signs, nor list with the Yellow Pages. Despite the lack of those modern expedients, traveling disciples found and met with fellow saints (Acts 20:7). Today, we have all those things, plus GPS and we still get lost!

Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Inspiration doesn’t identify Jesus’ assembly with his personal name, but with his titles. Is there a pearl hidden in that lesson that is waiting to be discovered?


Thursday, November 22, 2018

1 Now on the first day of the week, when the members of the Catacomb assembly came together to break bread, 2 Timothy spoke to them and continued his message until after midnight.”

Rome had become a hostile city to Christians.  Paul had recently been executed.  Christians were being arrested with families separated, never to see one another again.  Assemblies continued, but convened in safe,secret places that the average citizen would not frequent.  Accessing these places were done carefully.  One was careful, making sure no stranger was following him.  Keep the speaking and singing low key.  Soldiers are not known for their kindness when they discover one of these gatherings.  If found, members are impaled upon spears.  Soldiers delight in driving their blades deep into human flesh. Wounds bleed from large openings that guarantees a lingering and painful death.  The fortunate are herded into filthy, pest infected, dark and damp cells to await punishment.  That date arrives sooner than expected.  Saints are turned into performers to see how long they can remain alive when wild beast are set upon them.  To the chagrin of the entertained audience,no one performs in the arena for any length of time.

 The catacombs are not a pleasant place.  There is the smell of rotting flesh.  Some areas are well cared for, but these are bypassed for the more inaccessible places.  Discovery means death.  Better to smell it than suffer it.   The deeper into the catacombs, the better for these Christian assemblies which are hardly for the public.  Each first day of the week finds these individuals carefully making their way to the evening gathering.  Those who can, bring a container of wine and the unleavened bread to partake and share. Some may have small rolls of first covenant scriptures, but the group depends upon the memory of those who have had the privilege of hearing an inspired prophet or prophetess.  Psalms are quoted and chanted by those who know them. Those who have, share with the have not as they pray and partake.  Passages are given from memory and the group discusses what has been cited.  A prayer is offered, and the assembly begins to evaporate.

Where they assemble is void of comfort.  There are no chairs.  Dirt floors may contain vermin.  Light is supplied by those who bring candles.  It is not a place for the elderly, sick, or small children and babies. Rats are constant companions.  The smell has already been mentioned.  Death announces itself in many ways to those who venture into the depths of that sanctum.   Each saint appreciates the safety offered by those ways.  If it keeps snooping soldiers away, it serves their purpose. Worship does not depend upon furniture, bright lights, perfume scented areas, special clothing, nor creature comforts. Learning God’s word is not based upon “preaching,” but study is their mainstay.  

Those in attendance do not leave in groups.  Such demonstrations would invite curiosity, followed by unwanted questions and then unappreciated investigation.  Strangers are not invited since they may be pro-Rome rather than pro-Jesus.  Those who attend are careful to not betray their weekly evening visits to their neighbors, co-workers, or masters.  Some, who do not have a change of clothing,take a nightly dip in the river to rid skin and cloth of any telltale smells.

Do they share their faith?  Carefully.  Despite the persecution, threat of imprisonment or death, members slowly and carefully feel out their pagan neighbors for glimmers of curiosity or search for something spiritually superior to what they believe and practice.

From time to time,news filters through about the death of an apostle or known prophet.  Pagans and government hate both Jews and Christians for their narrow views and refusal to worship the emperor.  Yet, the body of Christ continues to grow and now there are two catacomb assemblies that meet in two different locales. 

Would such assemblies be of interest to anyone today?

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